Legendary Puppeteer Bill Diamond Helps Bring ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to Life at Workhouse Arts Center

The Workhouse Arts Center has someone special working closely with its upcoming production of that fan favorite, Little Shop of Horrors–Emmy Award-winning puppet fabricator and performer Bill Diamond.

Casey Fero (playing Seymour), Bill Diamond (puppet designer, fabricator and instructor), and Audrey II (puppet) in rehearsal for 'Little Shop of Horrors' at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.
Casey Fero (playing Seymour), Bill Diamond (puppet designer, fabricator and instructor), and Audrey II (puppet) in rehearsal for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.

Diamond began his own association with Little Shop of Horrors in 1984 when he fabricated and puppeteered the character of the delightfully carnivorous star Audrey II. He continues to operate the giant carnivorous plant for select touring company productions. Diamond also had a long association with the legendary Jim Henson.

For the Workhouse production, Diamond has brought his original puppets for the production of Little Shop. He is also training the Workhouse cast and puppeteers. Diamond will also perform at select performances of Little Shop of Horrors during the closing weekend of production which runs June 7 to June 30.

Joseph Wallen, Director of Workhouse Performing Arts Center, indicated that the Little Shop “creative team is taking inspiration from the film and stage versions of the work while embracing the nature of its original small theatre roots.”

“Working with Bill Diamond for the past few days has really been a great experience for me, and even more so for the cast that are performing the puppeteering roles,” said Wallen. “Bill was very generous with his time and provided attention to even the smallest nuances of puppet performance that make a big difference in audiences believing the puppet to be a living character.”

“In addition to holding two detailed hands-on workshops with the puppeteers for our production, he shared advice with all members of the cast on the best ways to act/react that bring Audrey II to life. Bill’s influence and advice was inspirational to the cast and raised the production to that next level of excellence,” added Wallen.

“We’re very fortunate and grateful to Bill for sharing his time and expertise, and I know that in addition to the terrific production that our creative team had already crafted, Bill’s influence will be felt during the show’s run,” said Wallen. “It’s clear that after a 35-year association with Little Shop (all over the world) that this a signature show for him, and learning some of the secrets to unlocking the magic in this musical was an amazing experience. His attention to detail, from movement to musical timing in critical storytelling moments and more have helped polish the final touches on this production.”

Puppeteer Bill Diamond, Liz Colandene (partially obscured, puppet performer) and Casey Fero (Seymour) in rehearsal for 'Little Shop of Horrors' at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.
Puppeteer Bill Diamond, Liz Colandene (partially obscured, puppet performer) and Casey Fero (Seymour) in rehearsal for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.

Antonio Bullock provides the voice for Audrey II. “This is such a fun role to tackle, there are not many featured roles in the bass vocal range and of course playing a villainous character is always fun,” Bullock said. “Audrey II has a way of almost hypnotizing people through the power of persuasion…It’s also funny to consider that the character of Audrey II, which is portrayed onstage partly by a physical puppet, ends up being a ‘puppet master’ in the storyline.

“As Audrey II requires two people to effect, the coordination to be in sync with each is a challenge to work out during rehearsals. The puppeteer providing the physical performance of the character is not able to see me backstage, where I am providing the vocals–and vice versa,” added Bullock. “In order to give a convincing performance, it is important that our timing is in sync as tightly as possible. I have noticed that during the rehearsal process we have adapted our performances to somehow take vibes off each other to more nuanced and coordinated performance. It’s an unusual process, but very exciting to see it all come together.”

As for Bill Diamond, he has been enjoying his time with the cast and crew at the Workhouse Arts Center. “I am having a ball. The cast is fresh and animated with so much talent,” said Diamond. “The cast is not playing the characters and the puppets and just saying the lines. They are portraying the characters, giving the puppets personalities and feelings.” Chatting with Diamond, it is clear he is relishing his time at rehearsals and entrusting his puppets to the Workhouse for audiences to adore.

Little Shop of Horrors plays June 7 to June 30, 2019, at Workhouse Arts Center’s W3 Theatre, 9518 Workhouse Way, Building W3, Lorton, VA. For tickets, call 703-584-2900 or go online.

Cast and creative team for Workhouse Arts Center’s production of Little Shop of Horrors:

CREATIVE TEAM

Direction – Danilo Stapula

Choreography – Jonathan Faircloth

Music Direction – Darin Stringer

Stage Manager – Joshua Stout

Puppet Design and Fabrication – Bill Diamond

CAST

Audrey – Meredith Eib

Seymour – Casey Fero

Mr. Mushnik – Rich Amada

Orin Scrivello, DDS, and other roles – Jay Tilley

The Urchins:

Benita Adams – Ronnette

Carrie McKnight – Chiffon

Khanner Hancock – Crystal

Audrey II:

  • Antonio Bullock (vocals)
  • Liz Colandene (puppeteer)
  • Bill Diamond (puppeteer on select performances)

Band:

Darin Stringer (keys, conductor)

Merissa Driscoll (keys, synth)

Ben Irwin (percussion)

Christopher Willett and Theresa Arnold (alternating on bass)

Robbie Taylor (guitar)